There's a quarterback competition here. But that doesn't mean there's animosity between the two players involved.
To hear the veteran Cam Newton describe his relationship with the rookie Mac Jones, there's more than an open line of communication. There's an experienced player trying to help an inexperienced one manage his emotions and his expectations during this pivotal moment in his development as a pro.
After Thursday night's preseason opener -- which featured 12 snaps for Newton (the starter) and two-plus quarters of work for Jones -- Newton described his relationship with Jones as a supportive one. Newton has offered Jones a set of broad shoulders to lean on, from the sounds of it. And Newton's even doing what he can to get the down-to-business first-round pick to lighten up every once in a while.
"He's relatively quiet sometimes," Newton said, "and I try to crack the Da Vinci Code of the seriousness... He's serious sometimes for no reason."
Before his preseason debut, Newton described Jones as needing some reassurance. They had a conversation about expectations prior to the first live action Jones would see as a member of the Patriots.
"Every young quarterback goes through it," Newton said. "The excitement. The anticipation. He wants to be so perfect. And I see his preparation is always pristine. That's what I admire about him, at such a young age, he knows how to prepare.
"He knows when Josh [McDaniels] asks good questions, or when a person asks good questions, he knows how to kinda have answers for it."
Jones didn't have every answer on Thursday against Washington. He couldn't get his team into the end zone, after all. But he did have a bunch. He hit his first eight throws in a hurry-up period in the third quarter. He completed all three of his first passes of the game, though one was called incomplete and not reviewed.
He operated quickly in the pocket. He was accurate short and deep. He checked down comfortably. He visibly exhibited command at the line of scrimmage at times. He took a couple of hits -- his first since the College Football Playoff in January -- and picked himself up off the turf.
It wasn't pristine. But it was professional.
Newton, the one Jones is trying to usurp, thinks there's more where that came from. And he says he's willing to help his young teammate find it.
"He's just going to keep getting better," Newton said. "We're going to be here for each other along this whole process. That's what we're here for."